Gearheads in love with speedway crash reels on ESPN2 will go nuts over Driven. So will hyped-up adrenaline junkies fond of Xtreme sports and fast cars. Beyond that, Sylvester Stallone may find himself short a few fans once word-of-mouth gets around about Driven’s pit stops. Not even all hard-core racing fans will appreciate the movie’s unreal fascination with fantastic crashes. Particularly in the wake of Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death on the track, many fans may see Driven as untimely, disrespectful and exploitative.
That said, Driven is surprisingly tame for a Stallone actioner. No sex. No drugs. And its violence consists nearly entirely of fast cars hitting slow walls. Stallone plays Joe Tanto, a retired open-wheel racer brought back to the big time to mentor promising up-and-comer Jimmy Bly. Bly’s struggling with whether he has what it takes to keep winning. Joe has to show him that he does. And now, back to the race ladies and gentleman, that’s all the time we have for a plot.
positive elements: Jimmy and principal rival Beau Brandenburg set aside their personal differences and even their aspirations to win a race in Germany when they drive off the race course to help a crashed driver. Joe encourages Jimmy to stop concentrating so much on winning and losing and rather focus on what’s in his own heart. "When the season’s over," Joe says, "you’ll either be on top or you won’t." But you’ll know what you’re made of. What kind of man you are. "Somebody put it in your mind that you have to be perfect every time out. Well just forget that," he says. Joe’s upbeat outlook on life continues: "I’ve got will and I’ve got faith. It’s like having a good disease, it’s contagious." He’s also loath to participate in shady racing ethics where teammates act as buffers to insure a team victory.
sexual content: Every time the drivers arrive at a new track for a race, the cameras search out the racy "racing girls" who, no matter where in the world they live, seem to always clothe themselves in short shorts and tight tops. While not out of character for such venues, the difference here is that onscreen their provocative attire is front and center. In real life it’s part of the background. In other words, while watching Driven, you can’t ignore the girls even if you want to. At an autograph signing, a female fan squeezes Jimmy’s backside and women bare lots of cleavage at a racing shindig. Joe’s ex-wife makes a rude sexual comment to a female reporter who’s hanging out with Joe that if he "doesn't get it by midnight, he probably won't get it, and even if he does, [it won’t] be worth it." She also jokes about women liking men to "manhandle" them. One visual innuendo involving a cinnamon stick alludes to oral sex.
violent content: Crash. Crash. Crash. Slow motion footage revels in race cars morphing from beautiful machines into chunks of smoking metal (no one dies). In one reckless scene, Jimmy and Joe race through the streets of Chicago in stolen prototype cars. They leave a whirlwind of destruction behind them but are only slapped on the hand for the serious danger they’ve posed to others. Sophia, who dates both Beau and Jimmy, punches Jimmy’s brother in the nose.
crude or profane language: Not as much as one might expect from such a testosterone-laden flick. One s-word (and possibly one whispered f-word) caps about two-dozen other milder profanities. About eight misuses of the Lord’s name.
drug and alcohol content: Wine, beer and vodka serve as stage props throughout. Race winners spray each other with champagne.
conclusion: Light on plot and acting (lines are delivered with all the conviction of an afternoon soap opera), Driven will drive serious movie lovers right out of the theater. Stallone wrote the script. Need I explain further? For everyone else who shows up, it will provide two hours of high-decibel track-side excitement with zippy special effects (a close-up slow-mo of a disengaged tire soaring into the air and then plummeting—the camera following close behind—into the stands proves to be one of the zippiest). Good sportsmanship triumphs over greed and ego and that’s about as fine a message as one can expect from a racing movie. Just watch out for the oil slicks of foul language and plunging necklines.